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You are here: Home Page / Exhibitions-1 / Past Exhibitions / Toulouse-Lautrec Prints 2011

Toulouse-Lautrec Prints 2011

exhibition installation, toulouse-lautrec, 2011

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High Kicks and Low Life: Toulouse-Lautrec Prints

A British Museum Tour Supported through the generosity of the Dorset Foundation

15th January - 10th April 2011

Toulouse Lautrec: High Kicks & Low Life. A British Museum Tour at Bedford Gallery 2011


Described by a contemporary critic as ‘the quintessential chronicler of Paris’ the work of Toulouse-Lautrec (1864-1901) immediately evokes the decadent atmosphere of fin-de-siècle Paris. Through his prolific graphic output of posters, theatre programmes, song-sheets, illustrated periodicals and special-edition prints for the growing market of collectors, Lautrec effortlessly managed to combine the excitement of the cabaret and the unforgettable characters of the café-concert with the poignant, shadowy private lives of prostitutes and their clients.


The exhibition presented a selection of graphic work as part of the tour organised by the British Museum with the support of the Dorset Foundation. Bedford Gallery was one of just four venues in the UK, including the National Museum of Wales, selected to display the works.


The works from the British Museum were accompanied by works from The Higgins' collection by Toulouse-Lautrec and his contemporaries.


Dave Hodgson, Mayor of Bedford Borough, said:

It is fantastic news that Bedford Gallery has been chosen by the British Museum as one of four venues for the national tour of the works of Toulouse-Lautrec. This will serve to boost Bedford’s status as a cultural attraction in the region, which will be strengthened further by the creation of a flagship Art Gallery & Museum following our major redevelopment.”


Born in the south of France to an eccentric aristocratic family, Lautrec moved to Paris in 1882 to study art. One of his fellow pupils was Vincent van Gogh who greatly admired his work. Soon Lautrec established a studio in the notorious district of Montmartre, famed for its brothels, nightclubs and dance halls, and it was here that the artist would remain for the rest of his life. Lautrec eagerly embraced the lifestyle of a young bohemian artist of the Belle Epoque. By day he would haunt the galleries and museums and by night he frequented the dance halls - the Moulin Rouge being his favourite - and which he immortalized countless times in his work.


The exhibition was divided into two sections, ‘Scenes from Theatrical Life’ and ‘Scenes from Daily Life’. The former presented striking images of the can-can dancer Louise Weber, known as ‘La Goulue’ (‘The Glutton’) and Jane Avril, one of Lautrec’s favourite subjects. In contrast to the lively exuberant scenes of the cafés and bars of Montmartre, Lautrec portrayed with great sensitivity the extremely private and intimate life of the prostitute in the second section of the exhibition. The artist lived briefly in several brothels and captured at first hand the daily rituals of feminine life, beautifully executed in the ‘Elles’ portfolio of 1896.


Though Lautrec’s last years were plagued by alcoholic excess, this remarkable artist has left behind a body of work full of insight, wit and above all astonishing technical and artistic virtuosity.


The tour was organised under the British Museum’s Partnership UK scheme, which is the Museum’s strategic framework for collaborative activity throughout Britain.


The British Museum’s department of Prints and Drawings cares for the national collection of prints and drawings, all of which are accessible to the public through its Study Room and through changing exhibitions and loans around the UK and abroad. The collection comprises approximately 60,000 drawings and over 2,500,000 prints dating from the beginning of the 15th Century to the present day. More than 220,000 works from the collection are searchable online, 100,000 of them with images. Search the collection database online


A fully illustrated catalogue accompanied the exhibition. Written by exhibition curator Jennifer Ramkalwaon it offered an introduction to the principal themes of Toulouse-Lautrec’s prints, and was published by British Museum Press.